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How to Get Promoted by Volunteering

July 16, 2016  Min to Reads

Career plan, Promoted, PromotionWhat does it take to get promoted? This is a question that I’ve asked often in my career and that others have asked me many times. There are some people out there who are content in their current role and therefore do not seek promotions, but I believe those people are few in number. In my experience in the corporate world, the majority of workers desire higher levels of responsibility and pay. The problem is there are more of us wanting promotions than there are available promotions. So, how do you get promoted in such a competitive environment?

In a post I wrote on The Comfort Calzone called “How I Finally Got Promoted” I listed three ways to get promoted.

  • By volunteering
  • By making yourself visible to decision makers
  • By understanding that promotions are not earned

Today we will explore the first concept.

Show Them Your Uniqueness

Let’s face it, when 10 people are vying for the same spot, you have to stand out. There has to be something unique about you, and decision makers need to know it. They need to see that you are about more than just doing a great job in your current role. After all, most of the other candidates are doing that too. In today’s competitive job market it just isn’t enough to be a good worker with strong skills. It really isn’t enough to be an excellent worker with exceptional skills. Those things just don’t qualify as unique!

When Mark Antony delivered his funeral oration for Julius Caesar, he declared that if Ceaser was an ambitious man, as Brutus accused, then “it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answered it.” Mark Antony was being facetious. Ambition is not a grievous fault. Pride, perhaps, but not ambition. In fact ambition, along with engagement, is one of the unique qualities that decision makers are, or should be, considering when thinking about who should get promoted.

So, you have to demonstrate that you possess ambition, if you desire that next promotion.

Demonstrate Your Ambition

Dictionary.com defines ambition as “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction.” Their usage sentence demonstrates that ambition can be a negative. It states, “Too much ambition caused him to be disliked by his colleagues.” But the fact remains that ambition itself is good. So how do you demonstrate your ambition in a way that serves you, demonstrates your uniqueness, and sets you up for promotion?


In this case, I’m not talking about volunteering for community service. I’m talking about volunteering to do work in your organization that is outside the scope of you responsibilities and will require you to invest extra time and energy.

Your organization likely has special projects or initiatives that need to be managed and worked on. But it probably doesn’t have dedicated resources to commit to those projects and initiatives. Your job is to find out what those projects are and volunteer to work on one. But you must understand that this is extra work. You are not asking for a different job. You are asking for another job in addition to the one you currently have.

When you volunteer to work on special projects you show your leaders that

  • You want more responsibility
  • You are willing to prioritize the needs of the organization in your life
  • You have the ambition that marks leaders as unique and invaluable

A Word of Caution

When you do find that special project and get assigned to work on it, you will likely get excited and deeply engaged. Be careful. You must not let your core responsibilities suffer. The excellent work that you were doing must continue to be excellent. The fact that you are on a special project does not give you an excuse to miss the deadlines, ignore your tasks, and short change the work that you were hired to do. You must keep doing it all with excellence while serving the special project with the same level of excellence. If you can do this, then your uniqueness will become visible and your chance of promotion will grow.

Next time I plan to address specific ways to make yourself visible to decision makers, which is another key to getting that next promotion.

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